Kings 116, Suns 113
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)
On a night when the biggest news for the franchise was happening off the court, the youthful Sacramento Kings and their loyal fans were focused only on the game.
Inspired by a fan base that has stuck by them in a trying season, Marcus Thornton scored 24 points and tied a career high with 11 rebounds for the Kings, who won their season-high fourth straight game by defeating the Phoenix Suns 116-113 on Tuesday night.
Despite the strong possibility of the team moving to Anaheim next season, the Kings are enjoying their best stretch of the season, winning five of six games.
''It was overwhelming. (The fans) have deep roots and deep love for this team,'' Kings coach Paul Westphal said. ''Whatever happens, nobody knows. We're honored that they celebrated basketball and the Kings. We felt that.''
Early Tuesday night, the Anaheim City Council voted 5-0 to approve a $75 million financial package to lure the Kings from Sacramento. The council also voted 5-0 to pay for the Kings' relocation.
Orange County billionaire Henry Samueli, who manages the Honda Center where the Kings would play, will finance the deal himself, while the city is issuing the bond package. Officials at the Honda Center announced Tuesday that they will be creating a waiting list for fans who have inquired about NBA tickets for next season.
At a press conference, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA star in Phoenix, said he's resigned to the Kings moving to Anaheim but expects the Maloof ownership group to pay its $77 million loan to the City of Sacramento.
Despite the off-court news, attendance was 13,744 and fans cheered the Kings like it was just another regular-season game, ignoring the likelihood that the team won't return next season.
''After announcing that we might be moving, the real fans have come back and supported us,'' Donte Greene said. ''They still love us. We're the only thing here besides the (Sacramento) River Cats (Triple-A baseball team). They want to keep this team here. They keep coming to the games and showing that they want the team to stay here.''
While the Kings celebrated only their 10th home win this season, the Suns were lamenting yet another loss, their third straight and eighth in 11 games. Phoenix has watched any hopes of the playoffs practically disappear over this stretch. The Suns (36-37) are 10th in the conference and trail the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies by 4 1/2 games with nine games remaining in the regular season.
If the Suns miss the playoffs, it will only be the third time since the 1988-89 season. The last time they failed to make the playoffs was the 2008-09 season.
''You have to play your way into the playoffs,'' Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. ''Right now, the way we're playing we don't deserve to be in the playoffs. All the teams we are chasing are really good. And we are not. We are still alive in the playoff race, but we are basically on life support.''
Beno Udrih had 19 points for the Kings, who were coming off a 4-1 road trip.
Greene scored 18 points and DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points and a season-best eight assists, while Jason Thompson had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Tyreke Evans added 11 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
''My foot feels better and I'm moving at a good speed,'' said Evans, who had seven points, three rebounds and two assists in the fourth quarter when the Kings outscored the Suns 31-20.
Both Jared Dudley and Channing Frye scored 21 points for the Suns, who lost to the Kings for the third straight time. Marcin Gortat had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Steve Nash added 13 points and 14 assists.
Ahead by 10 early in the fourth quarter, a 14-4 run by the Kings tied it. The remainder of the quarter was a back-and-forth game, until Sacramento scored seven straight points to turn a one-point deficit into a 116-110 lead.
''They have been playing well and they have been a tough matchup for us,'' Nash said. ''We got off to a good start, but couldn't close out the game. That's pretty much how it's been going, not only against them, but recently and throughout the season.''
After Dudley put the Suns ahead 111-110 on a jumper, the Kings retook the lead on Thornton's 3-point for a two-point lead with just under a minute to play. Evans added two free throws to put Sacramento ahead 114-110 with 18.7 seconds left.
Frye missed a 3-pointer that could have pulled the Suns within a point. The Kings secured the rebound and the victory when Thornton made two free throws for a 116-110 advantage.
''As we get healthy and are able to sort things out, I think we're showing that there is a lot of reason for optimism,'' Westphal said. ''I think this team is excited about what the chances of success are going forward.''
Notes: Gary Bender, who has called Suns TV games for nearly two decades, announced his retirement Monday. ... Hill scored 13 points and Gortat had 12 in the opening half when the Suns led 61-59. Udrih had 15 points for the Kings. ... Last year's rookie of the year, Evans played in his third straight game after missing the previous 19 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.